How do you use Twitter?

Alice

In marketing terms, people view using Twitter in different ways. Some see it as a somewhere to make friends and listen to lots of gossip. Others use it for fact finding and a method for free and easy research. Others regard it as a voyeur’s haven, watching what others are saying and gleaning the latest news before it breaks. And then there are others who treat it merely as a place to feed your blog into and share expertise and tips.

 
So which scenario do you fit into?
 
Do you use your name in your Twitter username? Are you interacting freely with your followers? Do you start and partake in conversations? Do you write your tweets yourself? Are they spontaneous or composed beforehand? Do you keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day?
 
Do you use your business as your Twitter username? Are you representing a corporate identity? Do you only tweet what you’ve been told to say? Are you given free rein to reply? Do you find you’re repeating the usual mantra without any personal context?

Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Do you monitor the Twittersphere to see what others are saying about your brand? Do you intervene only to correct misconceptions? Do you promote facts and figures in order to spread awareness to a larger audience?

Are you using Twitter to spread your expertise through blog feeds and top tips? Do you use an automated service to carefully space out your tweets throughout the day? Is this to give the impression of a constant presence, or to capture different people in different time zones?

Remember, using social media should be a sociable affair, to create relationships with others in order to find out more about each other, with an aim towards long-term associations, referrals and recommendations, and maybe (or ultimately) business.

This mechanism for creating two-way, even multiple-way, communications with any like-minded person should not be abused by the never-ending desire to sell and make money, for cheap and easy research, or to crow about how wonderful you are.

Using Twitter means sharing resources and ideas, problems and answers, tips and expertise without a hint of selling, gossip and laughter, making connections and above all, friendship.

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Web-attractiveness isn’t necessarily good design

Alice

Reading through the LinkedIn Groups a question grabbed my attention. It was a lady who was obsessed with setting up a series of fancy designed monetized blogs. As well as wavering on which kind of blogging platform to use, she was very concerned about the design, as well as keen to start making money.

Unfortunately the thing about monetized blogs is that they take some time before they start to yield decent results. They need to be attractive to readers in order to build up a suitable following that would respond to the advertising, and they need to be visited regularly before there will be enough readers tempted to click on.

And web-attractiveness doesn’t mean a fancy template, it means good, varied, consistent and practical content. Plenty of websites have spent a fortune on the design, only to be sorely lacking in the information they contain, especially if it is out of date. Large corporates waste money thinking that by redesigning their website it will enhance its performance, but most visitors don’t notice, only caring about the information they need and want. OK, cleverly designed buttons that encourage a mouse-click may be successful, but what about the stuff they lead on to?

What makes a website or blog successful is good content, coupled with excellent navigation that guides the visitor in the right direction. Visitors should enjoy their experience, be easily gratified by finding what they are looking for, benefit from the information gleaned and be suitably impressed to bookmark, subscribe and regularly return for more.

When a visitor lands on your website or blog, they immediately want to establish this is the right kind of website they are looking for, without stopping to admire the fancy graphics and beautiful colours. A good design enables readers to immediately find what they want, and doesn’t hinder or distract them from their purpose. The overall result should be readable, legible, uncluttered and easy to use.

And the content should also encourage a desire to return, react to the call to actions and succumb to the sign up forms. Although an excellently written book may be read many times, it can’t compare to a blog that is regularly updated with new content, satisfying both its human readers as well as the search engine robots, who play such a necessary part in promoting your content throughout the web.

How to build your brand through social media

Alice

First, let’s get outside the concept that a brand is your logo, and establish that it’s also your customer service and your attitude to those who buy or do business with you.

And when you’re dealing with social media, it’s the ‘attitude’ part that becomes important. When analysing this medium, half of its name needs to be properly considered: ‘social’. This concept should not be ignored or forgotten.

So to use social media for brand awareness, you need to be sure what aspect of your brand is most effective in attracting your customers. Do some marketing research to find out what makes it attractive, and how it relates to their problems, needs and lifestyles.

Then you need to start communicating with people, and that’s were social media comes in. Even before you start broadcasting about your brand, amass a following. Do this by being friendly, interested, chatty, funny, educational, informative, helpful, showing empathy – whatever is needed to draw attention to yourself.

Social media works by being interested in what others are doing. In other words, by being sociable. Remember you need to work at it – friendships are not one-minute wonders, they take time, and gradually your followers will get to know you, like you and eventually trust you, and when they feel they can ask you anything or tell you their latest story, then that’s half the battle won.

Then you start broadcasting about your brand, and answer anybody who responds to it. This is not an exercise in selling – far from it!  Social media does not tolerate selling tactics. This is when you start to share stuff that is interesting, helpful, useful and beneficial to your friends. Notice I said friends, not customers – if your friends like what you are offering them, then eventually they will become customers, or refer you to others who are more likely to become customers.

Because you’ve gained the trust from your followers, they are then more likely to notice you, your business and your brand. You haven’t forced anything at them, you’ve allowed them to find out about you at their own pace, even if what you are offering them isn’t suitable for them. That doesn’t matter, they can easily become advocates on your behalf, and don’t forget a ‘warm’ referral is much more effective than a ‘cold’ call.

By becoming known as a helpful resource within your brand or business, all accomplished by being purely ‘sociable’, you are far more likely to be remembered, recommended and referred to, and who knows who might pick up on various aspects of your ‘sociability’, if you’re recognised as an expert in your field, it can only provide chances to expose your brand even further…

What should you be concentrating on in 2011?

Alice

At this time of year predictions for the business future will be winging around the ether, internet, cyberspace or whatever you want to call it, and they are as varied as their subject matter.

But these are the main factors that have reared their heads higher then the rest:

Mobile marketing will take off as more and more people acquire and use smart phones. Is your business and website mobile-ready? Have you adjusted your marketing strategies to accommodate the customer on the move?

Social networking sites will thrive, in particular Twitter and Facebook, though others like YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr and the like will all make their mark. Have you got an established presence on these sites yet? Are you using video, podcasts and other interactive technologies? If so, how much activity have you done on there recently?

Location based services combined with geo-location tagging will come to the fore. Those who haven’t explored applications such as Foursquare need to start now. Businesses need to start building their branded online communities with their followers, let alone their own social network with their customers (easily accomplished through your blog).

Social media will change the concept of marketing delivery. Improved awareness of customer needs will enable focused immediate offers to individuals within specific locations (mobile alerts when passing particular stores) with real-time demand (discounts available there now).

Advocacy will increase as the concept of building your follower-base gathers pace. Encourage sharing of issues and ideas – in fact any kind of interaction between past, present and prospective customers, even your competitors, will help increase awareness of need and its solution.  People buy from people, not faceless adverts.

What are your predictions for success in 2011?

Twitter: how I use it without wasting time

Alice

At a networking talk I gave recently about social media, one of the questions I was asked was ‘how do you use things like Twitter without wasting so much time?’

First of all it’s important to have a focus in what you want out of using social media. It is very easy to go in without any idea of what you want to get out of it, so you watch and read everything that is going on, get sidetracked into areas that aren’t anything to do with you or your business, and before long an hour has gone by.

Whereas if your purpose is to find out more about your niche or subject that is relevant to you, you could post up statements or questions aimed to provoke an answer or feedback, follow like-minded or expert followers who could provide more information about your line of business, or even put up tweets that promote or explain your business (but a word of warning here, Twitter is about networking, not selling) so that interested tweeple might want to read it, retweet it and comment back.

I use TweetDeck to follow mentions of my username or any other keyword I have chosen, columns of interesting tweeple who I like to keep an eye on and experts/competitors you want to follow, and dip in now and again to see what’s going on. I give it about 30 seconds for anything to grab my attention, otherwise I go back to work.

If there is something worth-while, I participate by answering or retweeting what I think is applicable. I wait and read the main Twitter-stream for a while to see if anything comes from my contribution, and respond accordingly. Sometimes I go back to work for a quarter of an hour and then drop in again to see if there have been any more responses to earlier tweets, but again keeping my presence to a minimum.

This is my way of getting my work done, but still being aware of what is happening on Twitter within my pre-determined group of followers.

Why should people interact online?

Alice

Online marketing and social networking thrives on interaction. Without this, there is no purpose to doing any of it! It would be like talking to an empty room with an echo.

But to encourage interaction, there has to be a good reason for it. In the end, it all boils down to: content. If there is something worth while reading, understanding, learning or sharing, then the chance for interaction from your friends, followers, audience or subscribers increases. It must be good value, interesting, exciting, educational, controversial or even down right annoying to encourage a response.

And then if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Not  everybody will be inclined to interact or leave a comment, respond to a question or interject with their point of view, or be inspired to share their knowledge or expertise. It’s worth noting that those who are active on social networking are more likely to interact – are you one of them? If not, are you ready to break out of your mould and join the throng?